Do you feel that your weight is your worth?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Harriet Frew
8th June, 20150 Comments
One of the first rituals that you may feel compelled to do before starting your day, might be jumping on the weighing scales and noting the magic number. Not a morsel of food must have passed your lips; hair must be dry; jewellery off and clothing absent. The scales must be set to precisely zero. There may even be a practice of getting on with one foot first, whilst lowering your body gently down and simultaneously holding onto the wall. If the number coming up is not to your liking, you may well repeat the procedure again to double check or move the scales to a different room to make sure the bathroom lino is not disrupting the accuracy.
Doesn’t it sound quite a ludicrous habit, when actually reading it here? Alas, it is a common practice for many of us and is a determining factor of well-being, self-esteem and lifestyle habits.
You may think, ‘well I need to weigh myself, I am unhappy with my weight. This is a way to check in and get back on track’. It is understandable that most of us would strive to have a healthy weight for vitality; long-standing health and disease prevention. However, often the scales can become a barometer of self-worth and although you might use them with favourable intentions to improve your habits and relationship with food; paradoxically, the scales can often have quite the opposite effect. You might become extremely obsessed with the number and generally feel a high level of dissatisfaction with your body.
Five reasons to reduce an obsession with your weight
1. The Judge
When you weigh yourself, it is very likely that much judgement and value gets placed on the number. Whatever the number, it might be challenging to feel happy with the result. If it has increased you may be feeling quite cross, annoyed, confused, and determined to reverse this immediately by whatever means. If the number has gone down, you might feel pleased; but maybe also puzzled (what about last night’s cake?); and anxious – ‘can I maintain this now’? It is rare to step off the scales, feeling joyful, content and purposefully focused on your day ahead.
2. The ripple effect on your day
The number on the scales might hold considerable power in its affect on your well-being. It may likely impact on what you will wear today; how you feel about your body image; your level of happiness; how much you will eat and how sociable you will feel. This one number may have more influence on your level of contentment than you had ever considered. Sadly, knowing the number tends not to bring the happiness or motivation to feel any better about your body anyway. If you feel you have to be very restrictive with your eating, you may feel miserable and deprived. You are also more likely at risk from binge eating. If you are feeling uncomfortable with your body, you might withdraw socially and feel very self-conscious. You might wear baggy clothes to hide your figure.
3. Getting too tied in to one number is unhelpful
Our weight is not a fixed entity and most people will find natural fluctuations in their weight, even when eating patterns are pretty consistent. There is not always a direct and logical correlation between eating, exercising, drinking and the number on the scales. Therefore, weighing yourself too often is not going to give you a realistic picture of the pattern of your weight.
It is more helpful to notice how your clothes are fitting and how you feel in your body. Even if your longer term goal is to be a bit lighter, today, you can still be kind to your body and take care of it. You can still wear clothes you feel attractive in. You can make an effort with your appearance and choose to engage with others.
4. Stops you valuing your body and seeing bigger picture
Remember that the number on the weighing scales is not your whole worth. Sometimes, you might base so much of your self-esteem on this one reading. It is a measure of many possible ones in determining some data about you. However, there are infinitely many more ways to value yourself. If you take this one reading so out of proportion, then no wonder, your self-worth will be likely compromised.
5. A preoccupation with weight can prevent you living your life
When the number on the scales becomes all authoritative, it prevents you leading your fullest life. Minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years have been lost to dieting, yo-yoing with weight; pursuing an unrealistic body ideal and at what cost? When these factors predominate in life, they take up precious time and energy, and rob us of our energy and motivation to channel this in other life areas.
Think about your own relationship with the weighing scales. Consider if it might be helpful to make some changes on your frequency of weighing or how you value yourself in relation to your weight. If you are really struggling with this and feel that you need more support, then you might wish to think about getting some help through counselling.
About the author
Harriet Frew is a counsellor, blogger, writer and enthusiast in supporting people with eating disorders. She has worked in the NHS; private practice and in the voluntary sector; working in the field since 1999. Harriet now works privately in Cambridge and London.
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